Uggghhhhh this one is tough, I'm not gonna lie. Regardless of whether you are on location & away from home or working locally it's tough (and expensive) to leave your kids all day while you go off and battle the endless war that is filmmaking. And when you're not working what do you do? Do you let your beloved nanny go? Do you lose your spot in daycare? Do you keep paying for childcare even though you're not working? Lots of questions and lots of different ways to approach it. I'm in no way suggesting that my way is the best way, in fact if you find something more efficient let me know! So much of it depends on whether or not you have a partner who can help out and what their schedule is. My husband works full time in advertising and travels out of town a lot for work so he was never an option of helping out with the childcare. But if your partner freelances maybe you'll have better luck in being able to balance your schedules so one person is "on" while the other is "off" and not have to pay for childcare.
NANNIES vs. DAYCARE
I went with a nanny because the daycare hours just didn't work with my or my husband's schedule. The inconsistency of sometimes needing to wake up at 4am or getting home at midnight certainly did not work with daycare hours, especially when my husband was in Toronto for a week. I needed a childcare situation that was flexible. This is not to say that the nanny situation is without challenges. You know how we don't get our call time until the night before? Yeah....that sucks for us and for the nanny too. But if you are lucky to have a partner at home that you can tag team the situation with, along with the nanny it'll be all good! If you don't have a partner at home and you are single mom'ing it don't be shy to ask your friends and family and neighbors for help.
Even though I have a full time nanny I've had my friends & family help out when my husband is out of town and my nanny needs to get rest. I've gone down the list of everyone in my family & my in-laws to come into the city to help out for a week here and there when I am scheduled for overnight shoots etc. Once I go through the list I start back at the beginning. It seems obvious "ask for help" but really...you have to ask for help, as much of it as you need. It's amazing how many people you can string together to cover the childcare hours. You might feel funny asking the entire world for help but remember you won't ALWAYS need this much help, it's only temporary. As your career grows you'll have more control over your hours and your kids won't always be so helpless ;) They'll get older and eventually learn how to feed themselves. Your friends and family will understand, they love you and they will help, utilize them!
It's cliché but it really does take a village...
As you can imagine, leaving your little baby with a stranger is tough. Once you find someone you can trust and your baby loves, it's really hard to let that person go...even if you're not working and you don't "need" them. Even though we are freelancers, most nannies are not & as baby gets older and becomes aware of people it might get harder for them to acclimate to new caregivers over and over again.
I decided to hire my nanny full time...yup that's right. She works every week whether I work or not. I couldn't handle the stress of trying to find a new nanny every time I got a job and then letting them go every time a job ended. That's just me. I discussed with my nanny very thoroughly my situation, my unpredictable schedule, and my need for a flexible caregiver. We also discussed a minimum amount she would get paid per week when I am not working and then when I am working, since the hours go way up she makes way more.
On the weeks when I am not working but still on the hook for childcare I spend those hours child-free; interviewing for jobs, cooking & freezing food, doctor appointments, paying back favors to everyone who helped me out with baby while I was working, reading child rearing books, etc - basically trying to get my house back in order before the next job begins.
It's expensive and it makes taking jobs more difficult. The rate has to be more than what you pay your nanny and good full time nannies in NYC get paid a lot. A lot of them also expect paid vacations, paid sick days, paid snow days, holiday bonuses, paid holidays etc. Of course you can set up any agreement you want with your nanny. My nanny also helps out with light housework, it was something we agreed upon upfront. Small things like doing dishes, emptying garbages, and laundry make a huge difference. Some people even have their nannies cook food for their kids. And did you know babysitters are different than nannies? Babysitters are like the freelancers of the NYC childcare world. They are more part time, don't expect the benefits of PTO like the full time nannies. It might be harder to piecemeal the schedule together with a part-time nanny but if you're on a tight budget it might be a good option.
Basically think about the situation you want; nanny or babysitter? How much are you willing to pay? Hourly or weekly? Should they help with house chores or not? etc etc. It's helpful to have a vision for what you will need before starting the interview process.
The idea of nanny sharing is alluring. In the beginning I shared my nanny with a friend who was also freelancing. It was great when I wasn't working because I didn't have to pay out childcare because my friend would take our nanny for more hours during those times and then vice versa. When I was working full time I hired an additional short-term nanny for the days that my nanny was with my friend. It got a little complicated and ultimately I found juggling everyone's schedule too stressful. That's just me tho, I get overwhelmed by stuff like that. I know a lot of people who do nanny shares and it totally works out for them. It's a great option if you don't mind sharing your nanny and can be flexible with another family's schedule.
ON LOCATION CHILDCARE: Away From Home
Getting family to help out a week here and a week there is always the first call to make if that's an option for you. Chipping away at the weeks you are paying someone is always awesome. If it's not then hiring locally, while scary is totally doable. When I traveled to Rhode Island for a job I signed up for a profile on Care.com - I listed my ad and outlined all the challenges with it. I sifted through resumes and emailed back and forth with people while I was still in NYC.
I had 3 interviews set up for the day I landed in Rhode Island. 1 person cancelled on me so I just ended up interviewing 2 women. I chose Kathryn (pictured above) because I had a good feeling about her. I of course checked out her references as well. Care.com does a nice job of outlining profiles on caregivers, giving you the ability to filter and choose certain things you want your caregiver to have (CPR certified etc). Choosing a caregiver from the internet is scary, trust me I know! I was freaking out about it for sure. I was super lucky that my situation with Kathryn worked out.